It is one thing to claim authority. It is something else altogether actually to have it. Those who truly have authority have no need to claim it. Nor do they have any need to seek out opportunities to assert it by exercising their authority over others.
We often use the term "the authorities" to refer collectively to all those who, in one capacity or another, have been officially authorized by the organs or institutions of coercive power to enact, enforce, or otherwise perform certain functions pertaining to the exercise of such power. Such "authorities" include the police, the courts, and government officials elected or appointed, at local, regional, national, or even international levels.
In addition we commonly refer to those who have gained a reputation for expertise in some given field of intellectual endeavor--from history or sociology or other academic studies, to information processing, to internet technologies, literary criticism, and so forth--"authorities" in their given fields.
The two sorts of "authorities" often overlap. Thus, various individuals with reputations for being "authorities" of the second type, those who have special expertise, may well be designated "authorities" of the first type as well. That is, they may be, by virtue of their officially acknowledged expertise, authorized to perform official functions of one sort or another.
Thus, among the first type of authorities, those holding positions of official power, belong authorities of the second type, those designated "experts" in their given fields of endeavor, who have in turn been officially empowered to award others official certification of such expertise as well.
In academia, for instance, Ph.D. dissertation committees are authorized to attest that candidates for that degree have demonstrated sufficient expertise in their chosen fields to deserve their degrees, once those candidates have successfully "defended" their dissertations before such committees. Once that has occured, the candidates' dissertation committees officially so attest to the appropriate higher-level authorities of the same first type, who then officially award their degrees to such candidates, typically at official ceremonies set aside for such matters.
The priests and elders who asked Jesus that question were themselves "the authorities" of that time and place. They were part of the ruling hierarchy, replete with all the official credentials of their office. When those authorities asked Jesus by what authority he did what he did, they were asking him who had authorized him to speak and act as he did.
They, the duly authorized Jewish priests and elders who demanded he tell them who gave him such authority, had certainly never authorized Jesus to do any of those things. Nor would they certify the legitimacy of any of the words he had uttered or the deeds he had done. In their minds, he had no right to do or speak as he did, lacking as he did all the proper credentials.
Nor had any Roman authorities ever authorized him to do such things.
In the minds of all the official authorities, both Jewish and Roman, Jesus was nobody special. He bore no marks of distinction that set him apart and above anyone else. He was just a human being among human beings.
However, in the experience of those whose lives he touched, he set them free from the chains that bound them, opened their eyes that they might see, healed them of their troubles physical or otherwise, restored their health of body and spirit, taught them that their sins were forgiven them and that they were themselves children of God. In the experience of those who had been given the ears to hear him, he spoke with absolute authority.
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What is absolute is what has been absolved--from Latin ab-, "off, away from," plus solvere, "to loosen, untie, release, detach"--from all that would bind or limit it.
Accordingly, an absolute authority is one that has been set free from all bounds. It is, therefore, an authority that is no longer bounded or constrained, no longer set within defining limits, by such things as certifications bestowed by any officially authorized individuals, organs, or institutions whatsoever.
Those who speak with absolute authority neither have nor need any official authorization to speak as they do. The authority of what they say stands alone, set apart from all possible authentication beyond itself.
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Only those who have no authority of their own need to claim to have it from others. Whatever else such a claim may express, it always also expresses the lack of any authority all their own of those who advance it.
Those who have their own authority have no need to claim to have it. What they say always carries its own authority. It has no need of any other.
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Of course, I am no authority on such matters.